Thomas Jefferson statue could be removed from NYC City Council chambers

Manhattan

MANHATTAN — A statue of Thomas Jefferson in City Council chambers within City Hall may soon need to find a new home.

New York City’s Public Design Commission will vote next week to relocate the statue of founding father. City Council sources tell PIX11 News the vote is expected to pass. 

The City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus said the move has been “years in the making.”

Members of the caucus “have long objected to the statue’s presence, and did so most recently in a June 2020 letter that was sent by the Council to Mayor de Blasio,” the statement reads.

Councilwoman Inez Barron explained “we shouldn’t be elevating a person who in history, said that Blacks were inferior in body and in mind had no imagination.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio weighed in on the issue Thursday.

“The thing that is so troubling to people is that even someone who understood so deeply and values freedom and human dignity and the value of each life was still a slave owner, I understand why that profoundly bothers people,” he said.

A spokesperson for City Hall said lawmakers wanted to find a home for the statue that can “contextualize” Jefferson’s legacy.

“The Public Design Commission is the right body to weigh the merits of that approach,” the spokesperson said.

According to the Design Commission’s meeting agenda for Monday, Oct. 18, there is currently an item to vote on the the “long term loan” of the Jefferson statue to the New York Historical Society on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Since 1833, the bronze painted plaster statue of the third president of the United States and writer of the Declaration of Independence, has watched over the lawmakers of New York City.

Jefferson’s history as a notable slave owner is a major part of why many people have objected to him being upheld as an American icon.

Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa called for the statue to remain where it is during a press conference Thursday. Sliwa believes Jefferson “was a symbol to look up to to say this is what our country stands for, the freedoms that so many of us take for granted.”

“Slaveholding was quite common at that time, I say no to this revisionism. We are going down a slippery slope,” Sliwa said.

Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams called for statues and landmarks to be more representative.

“here are a number of appropriate figures to honor in our seat of government who are more directly meaningful to our people and are more reflective of our city’s history than Thomas Jefferson,” Adams said. “I am glad that the Public Design Commission will hear from the public on this issue, and I hope they consider uplifting underrepresented faces and communities to be honored and memorialized at City Hall and elsewhere in our city.”

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